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  • Niamh

Stop Online Mum Shaming

I sometimes wonder how the online world has changed motherhood. In my mum’s generation, she wouldn’t have had the opportunity to say blog about her daily life, the ups and the downs, the ins and the outs. She wouldn’t have been able to Google things like;

Green baby poo normal?

Baby rash face?

Baby cry 8 hours normal?

Can I die from lack of sleep?

Instead she probably would have talked to her own mum, or her sister or her other mum friends about any problems or just the daily trials of being a mum.

Today, we have access to more information and the opportunity to interact with other mums online, then ever before. It’s a phenomenon that’s got scope for both positive and negative.

First the good. Personally writing my blog has been both cathartic for me and I know it has helped other mums who have felt the same way. And while I don’t believe everything Dr. Google has to say, I’m glad I can still search anything baby medical related at a moment’s notice, to either put my mind at rest or seek further advice if needs be.

That’s the good. The bad is a whole different story I’m afraid. Because it seems as if social media in particular has become the universal mask some mums use to tear each others down.

It’s not all mums of course, but there is a very definite cohort of active mum-shamers. It’s strange, because often we set out to support each other, yet I’ve seen mums go at it hammer and tongs in online comments sections of social media, literally savaging each other over what seemed like an innocuous remark.

For example, I saw a new mum innocently post something recently on a weaning support group inoffensively asking, is it okay to give her 6 month old baby Cheerio’s. Okay a sugary serial might not be the best thing for any of us to eat on a regular basis, let alone a 6 month old, but you would swear this woman had admitted to murder, based on the comments she received. I’ll give you a flavour of the sentiments;

What sort of a moron are you?

How could you think giving your child that at six months is ever okay?

You’ve got to be the laziest mother I’ve ever seen, why would you do this?

That is basically child abuse, you f***ing idiot.

You’re not fit to be a mother.

It can escalate that quickly. All over an innocent post from a new mum looking for advice and help; not an open call to be abused from a height. And sadly that is the tip of the iceberg. I’ve seen people abused in the extreme over posting images of children in car seats, with grapes, posts asking how much Calpol to give, how to make and sterilise bottles and when to start weaning.

What’s interesting is that most of these posts are from mums looking for genuine advice or mums simply posting pictures of their kids not looking to be lectured. In a funny way, often the replies start off coming from a place of good. It’s other mums trying to help or point out problems, such as;

Don’t forget to cut grapes in half before giving them to your child.

Those car seat straps look like they could be tightened a bit.

All very sensible and reasonable points.

But instead of being made in a mild mannered way, as you would when you speak to someone face to face, it’s as if the presence of the screen gives them carte blanche to launch a tirade of abuse. Instead of telling the mum in question that the grapes need to be cut in half, she’s told she’s the world’s worst mother for even daring have uncut grapes in the fridge. It’s as if being one step removed gives people a shield to hide behind.

Reason disappears and anger pops up in its place.

I wrote a piece a couple of months ago called Can We Agree That Fed Is Best? The piece was about how we should support mums in whatever choices they make in terms of feeding. The blog talked about admiring breastfeeding and bottle feeding mums, rather than come down on one side. It was a piece about trying to banish guilt over feeding choices and pointing out the lunacy of arguing or shaming each other, instead of giving support.

After I’d written it, the messages started.

I’ve been writing professionally for over 15 years. I’ve written about everything from fashion to beauty, travel, food, showbiz and business. Yet in all those years, I’ve I never received warnings from people on a piece I’d written. Never. But with this I did.

You better brace yourself for a backlash, you b*tch.

Who do you think you are to call us breastfeeding mafia?

You should be ashamed for insinuating that anything other than breastfeeding is best.

Fed is not best. Fed is bare minimum. Anything else is child abuse!

It’s funny because in that piece I said;

Get a group of mums together who are happy to chat and laugh and swap stories, and the second the topic of breastfeeding Vs bottle feeding is dropped into the room, it’s as if a grenade has been unpinned and everyone is bracing for an explosion… The conversation starts off measured. Statistics are often thrown in. Soon passions emerge and tempers fray and all of a sudden there’s judgement and acidic bile in every loaded comment.

Sadly, those messages just illustrated my point. That a piece pointing out the madness of arguing with each other, instead supporting each other in our choices, got such a response.

Here’s the bottom line. Motherhood is bloody tough. Some days it can bring you to your knees, some days you can find yourself in tears. What we need from each other is support, not judgement. Even if you question another mums decisions or want to give your two cents, do it in a constructive, reasonable way. Don’t get on your soapbox and make her feel like shit.

We’re all in this together and it’s time we had each other’s backs, instead of plunging knives in there.

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